13 June 2013

Hon. Datin Paduka Hajah Intan bte Haji Mohd Kassim
ASEAN Commission for the Promotion and
Protection of Rights of Women and Children (ACWC)
cced to ACWC representatives

Sub: Your attention for Declaration on Violence against Women and Children

Dear Excellency,
Warmest greetings from the Southeast Asia Women’s Caucus on ASEAN.

Firstly, we would like to extend our gratefulness for opportunities provided to us in the past and for our continued engagement to contribute to the work of ACWC in promoting, protecting and fulfilling women’s rights in our region.

We write to you regarding the new ASEAN Declaration on Elimination of Violence against Women and Children (VAWC) that is being drafted. Through our participation in ASEAN Meeting organized the Working Group for ASEAN Human Rights Mechanisms this June 10-11, we received few updates from respected ACWC representatives. We are very delighted to know that two different declarations on women and children are being considered by ACWC.

However, we would like to reiterate our recommendations:

1. Two different declarations reflecting the specific and varied perspectives and contexts of VAW and VAC. Otherwise, the title of the Declaration must reflect the specific and varied perspectives and contexts of VAW and VAC and instead of using the term “VAWC,” we propose to use term “VAW and VAC”.

2. The Declaration must be free from any reference to the “balancing between rights and responsibilities”. We reiterate that the state is the primary duty bearer and that individual rights can only be limited to prevent transgression of the rights of others.

3. We ask ACWC to recognize and address the emerging forms of violence such as in the use of new information and communication technologies to perpetuate violence in cyberspace as well as economic violence women experience including violence against women migrant workers.


4. The Declaration must be a foundational document which reaffirms the rights, principles and standards enshrined in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international human rights treaties that provide an international legal framework along with accountability measures as integral towards the elimination of all forms of violence against women and rise above mere rhetoric.

5. The Declaration must adopt and advance the definition of VAW of the UN Declaration on violence against women (1993) and recognize VAW is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women.

6. The Declaration must affirm that any custom, tradition, religious considerations or public morality must not be invoked by states to avoid their obligations with respect to its elimination of VAW or to justify VAW.

7. The Declaration must address multiple forms of violence women experience resulting from intersections of various systems of inequality and domination.

8. States must exercise Due diligence to prevent, investigate and punish acts of violence against women, whether those acts are perpetrated by the State or by private persons. States must take necessary steps to remove barriers to access to justice by women and children victims and survivors of violence and other human rights violations.

9. The current Draft uses both the term “victims” and “survivors.” While we appreciate our recommendation has been taken up by the ACWC, we would like to reiterate that to address and respond to the root causes of VAW women need to be empowered and enabled to resist oppression; to develop their capabilities as autonomous beings and constantly negotiate the terms of their existence in the public and private sphere, through interventions ranging from education, capacity and skills development training, legal literacy, access to and control over resources, among others. We recommend ACWC to adopt this empowerment approach that will build women’s capacities to facilitate full realization of women’s rights.

The opportunity of the Declaration drafting should demonstrate the ACWC’s commitments to implementing CEDAW and CRC in the Southeast Asia region. Therefore, we recommend ACWC to urge ASEAN Member States to ratify and implement the Optional Protocol to the CEDAW and three Optional Protocols to the CRC.

We also attach herewith this letter, the ‘Due Diligence and Violence against Women: Enhancing Accountability to ASEAN Women and Girls’ for your kind perusal produced by Women’s Caucus and the Report of Special Rapporteur on VAW that covers Due Diligence as a Tool for Elimination of VAW.

We wish to reiterate Women’s Caucus commitment in supporting the work of the ACWC and constructively engaging with the different ASEAN structures and mechanisms in protecting and promoting the human rights of women in the region.

We also would like to put our humble request for your kind response. Should you require additional information, please do remember me.

Respectfully yours,
Sunee Singh
Women’s Caucus